Washington — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on June 11 rejected an AFL-CIO lawsuit calling on the Department of Labor and OSHA to issue an emergency temporary standard on infectious diseases amid the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.
AFL-CIO filed the suit on May 18, alleging that “the COVID-19 global pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus has produced exactly the type of workplace disaster that Congress intended an emergency temporary standard to address.” The labor federation, which first petitioned OSHA for an ETS on March 6, also contends that a significant portion of workers infected or dying from COVID-19 are classified as essential workers, who face workplace hazards because of exposure to colleagues, patients, and customers who may be sick or haven’t been screened for the respiratory illness before entering various workplaces.
The court ruled that AFL-CIO lacked evidence in such a claim. “In light of the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the regulatory tools that OSHA has at its disposal to ensure that employers are maintaining hazard-free work environments, OSHA reasonably determined that an ETS is not necessary at this time,” the ruling states.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka responded in a June 11 press release…
Is an Emergency Temporary Standard (EST) really needed in light of the current pandemic? Seems like there’s plenty of guidance already provided to employers by the CDC, HHS, and a host of other organizations…so, do we really need OSHA to regulate how we respond? My initial thoughts, and this from someone who hates government overreach, regulating how employers’ respond to COVID does make some sense. But, then, when you consider how much is still unknown about COVID-19, it’s hard to imagine pushing an EST to comply with the guidelines that seem to change week to week, month to month. Let’s let this thing play out and when the dust settles, ‘maybe’ then OSHA can look into drafting regulations to address not just COVID-19, but infectious diseases in general.
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